Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
I’M starting this menu with the sweet ending – caramel salted hazelnut. It was to die for and worth the trip to Grazing in Gundaroo just to indulge in this delectable dish.
Frozen caramel custard. Salted hazelnut praline. Chocolate parfait. Chocolate and cocoa fragments. Divine.
Grazing has a fair few awards under its belt. It’s in a beautifully restored stone building that was originally built in the 1830s as a travellers’ inn.
We parked, walked past the chef’s garden out the back, which sees heirloom fruit and veggies growing in rich Gundaroo soil throughout the year.
Local produce is very much part of Grazing’s ethos and that includes Canberra District wines. The line-up showcases wines from Gundog Estate, behind Grazing, which has a five-star rating from James Halliday (we stopped for a wine tasting first; well worth it).
Lunch was two courses for $50, three for $67 and four for $75.
A star entrée was the scallop, mussels and snapper pithivier pie, with creamed leek and smoked-oyster emulsion. The crust was light and crispy. The flavours delicate and the dish not heavy on the cream.
Having just bought a jar of black garlic during my wine tasting, I was inspired to choose the lamb for entrée. It was super tender and a fabulous match with the apple slaw, black garlic and a light hollandaise. Another much-loved entrée was the fennel-cured Spanish mackerel, with duck prosciutto, almond and olive. When I read about it on the menu, I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the flavours, but they worked.
One can’t go wrong with a braised ox cheek in winter, this one melt-in-the-mouth and rich with walnut, Roquefort, carrot, anchovy and spinach. If you’re keen on something lighter, try the pan-roasted barramundi. The smoked horseradish was intriguing and the dish enhanced with salty capers and tender calamari.
The least favourite was the roo, ash-dusted loin fillet with pumpkin, burnt butter and sage. It just didn’t stand out. Also, our zucchini side needed more seasoning.
But back to that caramel salted hazelnut. Our group doesn’t always have dessert. We’re glad we did and if I returned I’d have it again… or perhaps I’d have the apple splice with Earl Grey-infused ice cream.
In winter, Grazing is lovely if you’re lucky to get a table in a room with an open fireplace. Even though we booked six weeks in advance, we landed in the back room, next to the kitchen. It wasn’t our favourite spot. Lesson learned. Always ask about seating, no matter how far ahead you reserve.
Grazing, Cork Street, Gundaroo. Open for lunch Friday to Sunday and most public holidays. Dinner Thursday to Saturday. Call 6236 8777.